The San Francisco 49ers would’ve been the best team in the All-America Football Conference from 1946-1949 if it wasn’t for those pesky Cleveland Browns, who won all four AAFC Championships during the league’s four-year history.
And upon joining the NFL, while the Browns were appearing in and winning NFL Championships, the 49ers struggled to adapt to the bigger of the two leagues, making just one playoff appearance in 1957; a loss to the Detroit Lions.
After a pair of NFC Championship Game losses to the Dallas Cowboys and a subsequent Divisional Playoff loss to the Cowboys from 1970 to 1972, the 49ers, who’d won three straight NFC West Championships in that timespan, suffered for nine seasons.
The suffering came to an end in 1981, and the 49ers became the Team of the Decade during the 1980s, winning four Super Bowls. In 1981, the team gained revenge on the Cowboys, defeating them in the NFC Championship Game by a single point, a game that would be known in NFL Lore as ‘The Catch’ when quarterback Joe Montana hit Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone to secure the win for San Francisco.
The 49ers capped off the 1981 season in a Super Bowl win against the Cincinnati Bengals. In 1983, the 49ers lost to the Washington Redskins by three points in the NFC Championship Game, the team returned to the Super Bowl a year later, defeating Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins.
The Niners returned to the Super Bowl in 1988, defeating the Bengals for a second time before ending the decade as Super Bowl Champions for the fourth time after the 1989 season, thrashing the Denver Broncos 55-10.
The 49ers won seven NFC West Titles in the 1980s, and their dominance in the division continued in the 1990s, when they finished 14-2 in 1990 before losing by two points to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game.
In 1992 and 1993, the 49ers faced and lost to their old nemesis, the Cowboys, who went on to win Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII, both against the Buffalo Bills.
The 49ers cracked their ticket into Super Bowl XXIX, however, by defeating the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game and subsequently besting the San Diego Chargers, 49-26.
The team continued to be a force until 2002, and from 1990 to 2002, they compiled seven more NFC West Titles and ten playoff appearances.
However, 2003 was a fall back into the dark ages, and the team became one of the worst in the NFL until 2011, when they won the NFC West for the first time in a decade, but lost to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game.
The following season, the Niners broke through the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game, and earned a ticket to Super Bowl XLVII, where the Baltimore Ravens ended the team’s five-game Super Bowl winning streak. The game was also notable for having the first set of brothers coach against each other, as John Harbaugh served as the Ravens’ coach while Jim Harbaugh led the 49ers.
In 2013, the 49ers had one final run deep into the playoffs but lost to their NFC West rival, the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship.
While the hasn’t finished better than second in the NFC West since 2013, look at these stats since 1970:
6 Super Bowl Appearances
5 Super Bowl Wins
15 NFC Championship Appearances
19 NFC West Titles.
Not a bad resume over the last 50 seasons.
San Francisco 49ers Quick Hits
Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott, Dwight Clark
First NFL franchise to win five Super Bowls.
Main Article: San Francisco 49ers Helmet History